KING BIDGOOD'S IN THE BATHTUB :: this is crazy stuff, full of the absurd - a ton of fun to read!

Ages baby to 8 years

Do you read to kids in the bath?  When ours were small, a couple of them simply couldn't see the value of a bath. But they could see the value of a story. So I would read while they soaked away a day of grime.

King Bidgood's in the Bathtub is one that’s a ton of fun to read – anytime really, but especially in the tub. There's trouble:

King Bidgood’s in the bathtub, and he won't get out!’

A poor young Page has the job of alerting all and sundry to the problem – and he does a terrific job. First the Knight, then the Queen, then the Duke, and finally the whole Court try to entice King Bidgood out of the tub. It’s all to no avail and the King just conducts the business of the day in the enormous tub. (In the end it’s the Page who saves the day.)

This is a boisterous story that comes with a liberal serve of swagger. The King has a glint in his eye and an irreverent grin as he invites everyone into the tub to battle, eat, fish and even dance. Everyone else looks perplexed and a bit embarrassed - and they do their very best to maintain some level of dignity as they emerge from the King’s bathtub sopping wet. This is funny stuff!  I especially like the Page, whose very appealing little face tells a story of its own.

The bathtub scenes show a King who is roundly enjoying his day and they're full of details that give a sense of abundance and excess. 

While there’s lot of fun to be had reading this story and the odd risqué joke to be made (it’s a book full of bathtub scenes after all), it's also a great early reader. The little Page says the same words every time and the others answer with the same pattern, making this great for practicing predicting text. There aren’t terribly many words – only 59 different ones in the entire text – so lots of repetition for easy recognition.

The ready predictability and constant repetition also make this a fun book for even very young children – there's lots of room for language play with accents and slightly off-beat voices. (The pictures have a slightly muted tone and are bursting with detail, which very young eyes may find tricky.)

A sense of the absurd is essential in developing a sense of humour – as per the incongruity theory:

Something is FUNNY when a REAL-WORLD event doesn’t match up with your mental model of what SHOULD happen.
Barney Beins, PhD

And King Bidgood is full of the absurd – a King who won’t attend to his duties – fishing, eating, dancing(!) in the bathtub – a Queen, fully clothed including crown in the bathtub with the King while the Page pours drinks. This is crazy stuff – a child knows that there is no way this matches real life. And so … it’s funny.

Understanding what is funny is a super important developmental step – with positive flow on effects in intellectual, social and emotional development. 

One last thing: kids of around 4 – 8 years old tend to go one of two ways about naked bodies – they're squeamish, even prudish or a little bawdy. Either way, King Bidgood works. For the squeamish it’s a gentle bit of fun that winks at King Bidgood being naked in the tub with fully clothed advisors. For those who can’t get enough of naked jokes it’s a bit of a romp that works because of the unstated humour – and don’t we all wish some of that 4-8 year old naked humour would sometimes go unstated!!!

King Bidgood will help with developing a sense of humour - and if you’re lucky it just may help to make bath times a bit more palatable. It may also leave you wishing for a bigger tub where you could happily spend a day.

King Bidgood's in the Bathtub was written by Audrey Wood, illustrated by Don Wood